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Trade Show Giveaways: Should We Do Anything at All?


Recently, I was asked the following question by a fantastic client:

“I was wondering if you could give your thoughts on giveaways that would attract people to our booth, and your thoughts on doing anything at all? Do you have any thoughts on this? Your valued opinion is greatly appreciated.“

I’ll admit, that last sentence committed me immediately. Here was my response:

“This is a tough question to answer without spending a lot of time understanding your marketing goals and strategy. That being said, it is imperative that you do “something” in three areas around your trade show: Pre-Show, During the Show, and Post Show. All three are important and anything you do will help your ROI.”


At a minimum, email your CRM database to let them know you are going to be exhibiting. Or take it to the next level: have your sales staff contact those that might attend and set appointments in your exhibit.

Send out snail mail postcards simply letting people know you are exhibiting. Be sure to use the same branding as your campaign’s email creative.

Promotional items can be used to attract interest as well. We had a client that sent her top 50 prospects bags of pepper corn with a note that offered them the pepper grinder if they visited her booth at the show. Forty-two did just that! She followed up with the other 8 and said something along the lines of “Sorry I missed you at the show. However, I still have your gift and would like to deliver it to you. When is a good time for us to visit?” The other 8 all set appointments.

Many have used variations of this: send an ink canister and offer the pen at the booth, send golf tees and offer a sleeve of balls … you get the idea. Be creative based on your clientele. If you can tie it to something in your product line or service, even better.

One day before show, shoot a quick video with your cell phone while you are in your exhibit. It is an impressive exhibit and you should be proud to “show it off.” Let people know what they can expect when they visit. Short and sweet – 10-30 seconds. Blast social media and have your entire team share it!

During Show

Have several levels of giveaways: one item that everyone gets, another that a decent prospect or client receives, and then something upscale for a whale prospect or client.

These items should be presented and then handed to the client with a thank you for taking the time to visit you. Even the swag for everyone. Handing it to someone increases the value immediately. DO NOT SET ITEMS OUT FOR ANYONE TO TAKE (otherwise the trick-or-treaters will clean you out and you won’t get any lead information in return).

And if you are using a fish bowl for anything – smash it. Literally.

Continue the social media campaign with short videos of things happening at the show, demos in your space, meetings, whatever. Again, short and full of energy.


At the minimum, email everyone that visited you with a “thank you” message. Have your sales staff follow up with handwritten notes.

Also, be sure to have some of the upscale items left. Set-up some appointments to hand deliver these to select attendees.

Be sure to continue your social media campaign with a “thank you” video. Perhaps even do a “mash up” of all of you videos to let people see what they missed. This is easy and not expensive to do.

Make sure all leads are followed up and promises are kept! Review your staffer’s notes on each lead.

Two things to highlight: if you do not have that white paper, complete the form below to request a copy! Second, I am always available to express my opinion – especially about the fishbowl (this will definitely be my next post). You can comment below and I will do my best to follow-up.

Remember, almost anything you do is better than doing nothing at all. Here’s to your trade show success!